Lesvos had a lot of important persons during its colorful history. There was Stratis Eleftheriadis, who became an important
person in modern art. Another person was Βenjamin Karres. As a patriot, he was involved
with the Friendly Society, a movement to enlighten the Ottoman-occupied Greeks and plant the seeds of liberation.
Or Pittakos, he was one of the Seven Sages of antiquity, and was native of Mytilini (648 B.C). Terpander,
a native poet and musician of Antissa in Lesvos. Also Theophanes and of course Theophilos, the famous painter.
Have a look to find more detailed information.
Stratis Eleftheriadis - Teriade was born in Mytilini in 1897 and died in Paris in 1983. At the age of eighteen he left for Paris to study law. His real passion, however, was art theory and critic. At the time he was in Paris modern art was first taking form and gradually Teriade became part of the circle of the pioneering modern artists and their proponents.
He entered into a significant and enduring collaboration with established editors and publishers of modern art. He devoted himself to publishing periodicals, books, and articles concerning art. After many years of being well-known and highly respected he established his own publishing house, VERVE, in 1937.
One of Teriade's most significant contibutions was the recognition that he offered to the -until then- neglected work of Theophilos. It is solely due to Teriade's vision that today Theophilos' unique spirit is preserved. We know Theophilos through the works that the painted on canvas after the request of Teriade. Teriade him internationally by arranging a display in the Louvre, and thus attracting the attention of many people. Teriade financed entirely and donated to Mytilini in 1964 the Theophilos Museum, which houses the artist's latest works, like the one on this page.
At the time he thought of building a Museum-Library to display his work as an editor and publisher. This idea materialized in the museum of today which he also donated to his home town in 1979. The Museum of Modern Arts serves as an Open Book, in which visitors are introduced to proofs, original works and critiques of many pioneers of the modern art, including Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, and others.
Benjamin Karres (Venjamin Karres of Lesvos) is one of the most important and attractive figures to whom the title "Teacher of the Nation " is given. He was a native of Megalochori of Lesvos (1762) and he studied at Kydonies, as well as in Europe.
His studies included Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, and Philosophy. He served as director of the Evaggeliki School of Smyrna, the second most important center of Hellenic studies during the Ottoman Empire. Benjamin was inspired by the European enlightenment movement, and introduced modern Philosophy and Physical Sciences to Greece.
As a patriot, he was involved with the Friendly Society, a movement to enlighten the Ottoman-occupied Greeks and plant the seeds of liberation. When the struggle for independence began he took part in the assemblies of Epidavros and Astros.
Pittakos was one of the Seven Sages of the ancient times, and was native of Mytilini (648 B.C).
He was devoted to public service, associated with the aristocratic party, and fought in many wars, eventually becoming a General. He was renowned for his adamant character and decency. His popularity was such that the Mytilinians vested him with dictatorial powers, a kind of elected tyrant. He introduced and applied many new laws and granted amnesty to his enemies, believing that forgiveness is better than punishment. He opted to rule for only ten years, relinquishing power with his own free will.
The Mytilinians, on his decision to leave public life, presented him with a piece of land, the ‘Pittakean plot’, from which he kept only an area as far as he could throw his spear, since he said ‘a fair amount is more than enough’.
Once upon a time, very long ago, in fact in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., there lived a lyric poet named Sappho. In her world, and in the world of the epic poet Homer who preceded her, Dawn had rosy fingers and the sea was wine-dark. The stars circling the moon blushed and hid their bright faces in awe when the moon's brilliance graced the evening sky. And Aphrodite, the purple-robed goddess of love, lived in a golden house and rode in a yoked chariot pulled by swift-winged sparrows.
These are the images created by Sappho, Greece's exalted lyric poet, the honey-voiced songbird of the ancient world. She is the most famous person who ever lived on the island of Lesovs.
Sappho was highly esteemed in her day and the homage continues. Her image appeared on coins minted in Mytilini and a huge statue of her was in the town's square. The ancient writer Strabo called Sappho "a marvelous creature and said "In all recorded history I know of no woman who comes close to rivaling her as a poet." A man called Solon of Athens begged to be taught one of her poems and said "Let me learn it and then I can die."
Who was she, exactly, and why has her poetry endured? Why is she the source of tantalizing legends and speculations? Actually, very little is known about Sappho's life and what is known is disputed. Scholars seem to agree that she wrote nine books of poetry, none of which has survived, and that she lived during a golden time of extraordinary intellectual richness along the coast of Asia Minor, near the great cultural centers of Ephesus. Smyrna, and Phocaea. Born in Mytilene or Eressos on the island of Lesvos she was known in her time as the Lesbian poet, and in ancient times that meant simply the poet from Lesvos. The modern word lesbian comes from her birthplace.
Some scholars believe she was married and had a child; others say there is no evidence of this. Some believe her love poetry was written to women and that she was the center of a "cult to Aphrodite," and ran a type of school where women and girls were trained in the arts of music, dance and poetry to honor the muses. The renowned classics scholar, C.M. Bowra, speculated that Sappho trained young girls in the art of love and said she founded "a house that cultivated the muses." Others dispute this. Professor Denys L. Page, for example, says her poetry simply represents the everyday loves and jealousies of the poet and her companions.
Mary Barnard, in her book, Sappho, points out that in sixth century Greece, young women were encouraged to study poetry and music, and they sang and danced at festivals in honor of Artemis and Aphrodite. She adds that the songs in some religious exercises were performed exclusively for and by women.
Ms. Barnard finds it plausible, therefore, that mothers would send their daughters to be trained by the most famous lyricist of the age.
There is not much evidence to support various speculations which have developed over the centuries. All we have, really, are fragments of her poetry which survived on papyruses, figures on vase paintings, and writings of those who came after her. Scholars agree she was a genius who created a unique meter, called "the Sappic meter," which is very difficult to reproduce in English. Plato honored her by naming her "the Tenth Muse" and the Latin poet Horace paid her the supreme compliment by imitating her meter and the unique structure of her odes.
hile it is fascinating to speculate on Sappho's life, it is a supreme joy to read the poems and fragments that have survived. The poems are beautiful and it is most interesting to see how various scholars translate these poems. Two excellent translations are Mary Barnard's Sappho and Margaret Williamson's Sappho's Immortal Daughters.
Terpander (c. 712 - c. 645 BC)
According to Strabo, Terpander, a native poet and musician of Antissa in Lesvos. He is said to have invented a seven-stringed instrument resembling a lyre, called a 'kithara' by increasing the number of strings from four to seven.
Terpander won a prize for music with that instrument at the 26th Olympiad held in Sparta, and he established a school for musicians there. He is also created a system of musical notation. While there is evidence that such lyres existed before Terpander's time, there is a representation of such a lyre on a pot from Old Smyrna dated to the second half of the seventh century -- the time when Terpander won his reputation.
Terpander is said to have started the first music schools in Sparta. He is thought to have sung poems similar to the Homeric hymns. His name is associated with the form of a song sacred to Apollo known as the nome. He is also considered the founder of lyric poetry.
The Roman era historian Theophanes (100 B.C.) was born in Mytilini.
He accompanied Pompei in his military operations in Asia Minor and wrote an account of them. Pompei, in return of these services, accorded him the rights of a Roman Citizen. It is said by Strabo that such was Pompei's trust in Theophane's abilities that he never did anything without taking his advice.
Theophanes made use of Pompei's favor for the benefit of his native town, Mytilini, which Pompei, on his return from Asia in 62 B.C., declared to be free and adorned lavishly. The Mytilinians honored Theophanes by striking coins with the inscription "Theophanes god of Mytileneans"
Theophilos Chatzimichael was born in 1873 at Vareia near Mytilini town. He died in 1934 from food poisoning. His works are inspired by history, mythology, nature and life. They are distinguished by their primitiveness but also for their expressiveness and their color combinations. The paintings of Theophilos are difficult to find today and their value has reached astronomical heights. Large art foundations in Europe and America have opened their salons to his works which have been insured by Lloyd's of London for enormous amounts.
He painted on walls, doors windows, houses and shops and many of his works have been lost or destroyed. Teriade made him known and supplied him with materials so he could paint on canvas and because of this his fertile artistic inspiration and creative passion were in large part saved.
Stratis Myrivilis the famous writer from Lesvos writes of Theophilos:
He was a strange man and people thought him half crazy. He wasted away poor and alone in his unwashed kilts. You might wonder how an islander came to be wearing kilts. Well it was his passion. He used to long for the annual carnival so he could wear his kilts out of doors. Sometimes he would dress up as a Macedonian, sometimes as a soldier of the Greek kilted regiment. He was a short, pale sickly man but nevertheless there burned within him a passionate desire for the heroic stature which God had denied him. Sometimes at carnival he would gather his friends together and they would all dress up as Olympic gods. Theophilos would always be Ares, the god of war. He would wear a crown of gold-colored cardboard and carry a wooden spear with it's point covered in silver paper and a round shield made of a thin board. On the shield would be painted the head of Medusa with her snake hair. Because he suffered from alopecia the hairs of his mustache were sparse and he would wear a fals moustache made of tow, which he would twist fiercely as he walked behind the red mantle of Zeus.
More often he would wear a kilt and carry an old curved yataghan at his side or he would paint murals of the Greek War of Independence. It was thus he appeased his passion.
He left for Pelion on the mainland where he found work as a shepherd, and there, whenever he came across a mill or a coffeehouse with plastered walls, he would cover them with murals. He wore his kilts all the time there, even though the local people wore breeches and thus he earned himself the nickname Tsolias. On his return from Volos he threw away his sheperds crook and earned himself a living any way he could, begging for a piece of canvas or a white wall where he could paint his pictures. He didn't ask for money; only a plate of food and a supply of water-colors. His passion was to paint heroic themes, events in the life of Ali Pasha, and hunting scenes. When he was dead the critics of Athens and Paris proclaimed him a great painter and his pictures became extremely valuable".
From the book Vasilis Arvanitis by Stratis Myrivilis written in 1934.
No other folk painter or even perhaps classical painter has been honored since his death as much as the day-dreamer Theophilos. Among the other figures of Greek art and intellect who were at the August 1965 opening of his museum was the Nobel prize-winning poet George Seferis.
Be sure to visit the Theophilos Museum in Mytilini. Don't forget to see the hollowed out tree Theophilos lived in at the spring of Karini on the road to Agiassos. Keep your eyes open and you may discover a Theophilos on the wall of some cafeneon in a remote village somewhere on Lesvos